As an online retailer, your ability to scale often comes down to the efficiency of your eCommerce operations. More specifically, it often comes down to having the right processes in place to effectively manage business growth, so that you're mitigating against the risk of wasted time, loss of revenue and even a damaged reputation.
Here's the thing though: growth in itself isn't possible unless you are able to both identify and capitalise on new opportunities. Opportunities that range from diversifying your product offering and marketplace strategy, right through to leveraging internal data to make smarter, more profitable decisions around everything from inventory to fulfilment.
With this in mind, we have outlined a number of different eCommerce strategies below, each of which will allow you to optimise your online selling operations in order to maximise growth and remain competitive.
Keep pace with the changing eCommerce landscape
Having the right processes in place to keep cost and errors to a minimum is crucial, but without the ability to adapt to the ever-changing needs of consumers, success will be limited.
Below, we have detailed three strategies that you should consider implementing in order to continually refine your eCommerce operations, while meeting the needs of today's online shoppers.
Understand product demand
We've already touched on the importance of capitalising on the right growth opportunities, but one way in particular that this can be achieved is by expanding your product offering. The challenge, however, is knowing how to find the products worth selling. In other words, understanding products that are actually in demand.
Now while the process for this is by no means a quick or easy one, there are a number of tools and resources available that can certainly help.
Survey your existing customers
A good strategy to employ when you're considering expanding your product range is asking for feedback from your existing customer base. Your customers will appreciate being asked for their opinion and having a hand in shaping your business, and you can use a free tool such as SurveyMonkey to make the process seamless.
Create a survey with a selection of product ideas you're considering selling, then use the results to assess demand. It would be worth keeping a list of any product requests or questions you get from customers to help you the next time you plan on expanding your range.
See what your competitors are doing
One of the most useful resources is one you already have at your disposal: your competitors! Analyse their website, their marketplace presence and any other sales channels to see what they're selling, and more importantly, what they're putting effort into promoting - chances are, you'll find plenty of products that will appeal to your customers.
Of course, the key here is to see what your competitors are doing and do it better. If you end up selling the exact same product as a competitor, liaise with suppliers so you can sell it at a cheaper price, or consider offering a promotion to draw customers in.
Google Keyword Planner
Despite the fact that half of all product searches occur on marketplaces, the first port of call for many other consumers is Google. This means that as an online retailer, you can take advantage of the huge amount of data the search engine provides, by using their free Keyword Planner tool to understand information such as search volumes and other related search queries.
Now while you will need to have a product in mind to start with when using this tool, it can be a great way to confirm how popular it might be, while also understanding the exact language consumers are using to search for it. You can then use this language to optimise your marketplace listings for increased visibility.
Now you have your data, how exactly can you use it?
While one option is of course to react quickly, purchase the required stock and get the trending items listed as soon as possible, a safer bet may be to use these insights as inspiration and conduct extensive market research before making a decision into which new products to invest in.
Ultimately, there's no right or wrong strategy and it's going to come down to whether you're looking to quickly capitalise on changing trends, or whether you're looking to identify profitable products that are likely to remain in demand for a longer period of time.
Diversify on new marketplaces
According to Floship, merchants selling on three or more channels typically sell 156% more than those selling on just one, highlighting just how big of an opportunity marketplaces can provide.
In fact, not only do online marketplaces give you access to a ready-made customer base and therefore provide you with more growth opportunities, but their association with your brand and products can also help to establish trust amongst prospective customers.
What's more, in addition to boosting sales, diversifying on new marketplaces can also help to ensure your business remains stable, in the event of being suspended from other channels.
Ultimately, keeping pace with the growth and popularity of a range of online marketplaces can be a great way to ensure you have a robust marketplace strategy.
While you can see a complete list of marketplaces here for inspiration, if you're looking to expand your reach, we'd really recommend looking at the benefits of selling on OnBuy, the world's fastest-growing online marketplace.
Consider your delivery offering
With consumer expectations around shipping playing a significant role in shaping the eCommerce landscape, delivery and fulfilment should be amongst your top priorities.
After all, with shoppers now living in an age of instant gratification (where many expect their goods to be delivered not only at speed, but also at a low cost), as a retailer you need to work out how to meet these demands, without compromising your profit margins.
But how is this possible? Our recommendation would be to offer a range of delivery options. In fact, with 32% of consumers citing choice as the most important thing about delivery, compared to only 25% citing price, this can be a great way to ensure you're meeting the needs of different consumers, while also considering different price points.
As an example, you may charge more for next-day delivery, slightly less for 2-3 day delivery and potentially nothing for deliveries that will take five days or more.
Alternatively, you could look to inflate your prices slightly, but offer 'free' next-day delivery, which could even help with your visibility on certain marketplaces. That said, do factor in the potential impact of increasing your costs.
Leverage your own eCommerce data
The information you can obtain from marketplaces and search engines isn't the only data at your disposal. In fact, one of the most effective things you can do as an online retailer is to leverage your own data and analytics to make smarter and more profitable decisions about your eCommerce operations.
After all, these decisions can be the difference between success and failure. But where should you start? In this section, we've covered three key eCommerce metrics you should be tracking to ensure you're optimising for growth.
Understanding how well each of your inventory items are performing is key to not only scaling your business, but making sure you're doing it efficiently and profitably. With this in mind, we would suggest that you start by identifying your best and worst-performing products, in terms of both order volumes and profits.
Not only does this provide you with great insight into the products you should continue investing in, but it also highlights which products may benefit from being promoted and which should be discontinued.
That said, it is important that you're looking into whether the performance is consistent, or only occurs at certain times of the year, further using this information to inform things like your product's reorder point.
Finally, you should be assessing whether certain inventory sells better on certain channels and in certain markets.
Best and worst-performing channels
Following on from the previous point, you should also drill down into the performance of your sales channels. In fact, you should be looking at channel performance overall, comparing it to the costs of selling through that channel, as well as for specific products or product categories.
The ability to forecast projected sales becomes all the more crucial as your business operations grow. More specifically, it allows you to achieve the right balance between maximising sales opportunities and ensuring that you're not holding excess stock. Not to mention facing the subsequent costs that often come with excess stock - storage costs, insurance costs and the risk of damage, to name just a few.
Fortunately, the right inventory management system will be able to use historical data and other information you provide to not only forecast stock demand, but also determine your safety stock level, that being the optimal amount of stock you should have on hand to mitigate against the risk of stockouts.
Have complete oversight of your orders and inventory
As your order volumes grow and your customer base increases, attempting to manage your eCommerce operations manually becomes near-on impossible. After all, having to log in and out of each of your different sales channels to list products and process orders, not to mention having to manually adjust your stock levels on each one, not only wastes a huge amount of time, but also puts your business at risk of human error.
Unfortunately, inventory challenges don't stop there. In fact, as your business scales, it can become more and more difficult to track stock across multiple warehouses, trace products in the event of a product recall, and even manage multiple suppliers and couriers, the latter of which is particularly important if you want to monitor their performance.
So, what's the solution? In short, the use of a scalable inventory management system. At its core, inventory management software provides you with complete oversight of your eCommerce operations, from stock control and order management, right through to fulfilment, enabling you to save time, increase efficiency and reduce errors.
Perhaps more importantly though, by retaining full control as your business scales and managing everything from one centralised location, you can optimise your operations across each of the different areas of eCommerce.
Why not find out if Linnworks' inventory management software can help you meet your business goals? Simply schedule a chat with us at a time that best suits you.
Linnworks' Order and Inventory Management System helps retailers automate their entire online selling process, providing them with the tools and support to scale their business across multiple marketplaces and eCommerce platforms.
Trusted by over 4,000 online sellers worldwide, Linnworks enables users to manage their inventory, orders, listings, shipping and more from one centralised location, eliminating the occurrence of human error such as overselling, while reducing costs, saving time and giving them more freedom in both their business and life.